Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 DOI 10.

1007/s11229-006-9064-6 O R I G I NA L PA P E R

Correspondence truth and scientific realism
Stephen Leeds

Received: 18 February 2005 / Accepted: 12 June 2006 / Published online: 16 September 2006 © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Abstract I argue that one good reason for Scientific Realists to be interested in correspondence theories is the hope they offer us of being able to state and defend realistic theses in the face of well-known difficulties about modern physics: such theses as, that our theories are approximately true, or that they will tend to approach the truth. I go on to claim that this hope is unlikely to be fulfilled. I suggest that Realism can still survive in the face of these difficulties, as a claim about the kind of theories we want to aim for. I relate this conception of Realism to various contemporary discussions, both by realists and antirealists. Keywords Truth · Realism · Correspondence · Fine · Boyd · Kitcher A theme in recent discussions of Scientific Realism has been the claim that a scientific realist is committed to a correspondence notion of truth. There is a sense of course in which most of us, scientific realists or not, would allow that truth is a correspondence relation between sentences and the world: as Tarski and then Davidson argued long ago, there is a pretty clear sense in which satisfaction is a correspondence relation between well-formed formulas and n-tuples of objects, and truth is just the degenerate case n = 0. But such writers as Kitcher (2001) and Psillos (2002) have something more in mind. To call truth a correspondence notion in the Tarskian sense is consistent with thinking, as Tarski himself did, that satisfaction is definable only disquotationally, and therefore only for (fragments of) one’s own language, or other languages translatable into one’s own language. For Kitcher and the rest, a real correspondence notion must be something more substantial: at the very least, it must be a notion that allows us to speak of truth for languages in general, and not relatively to a choice of how to translate them into our own language. And this view is shared even by writers, such

S. Leeds (B ) Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA e-mail:


Synthese (2007) 159:1–21

as Leplin, who for the most part steer clear of the word ‘correspondence’ : open their writings, and you will sooner or later find them making use of, or defending, some version of the causal theory of reference—which is the paradigm of a correspondence theory in the present sense. Sometimes changes in our thinking happen so gradually that we need to be reminded to realize that a change has taken place. Scientific realists have always claimed that our best scientific theories were true, but I think one would be hard pressed to find, even as late as JJC Smart in the 1960’s, any defender of scientific realism whose conception of truth was explicitly a correspondence view in Kitcher’s sense. When a pre-1970’s scientific realist claimed truth on behalf of scientific theories, it was generally pretty clear which theories he had in mind, and the claim that, e.g. electron-theory was true could in his arguments be replaced without loss by claims about the existence and behavior of electrons; the lack of interest in a theory of truth that would apply, say, to future theories in languages not translatable into our own was reflected in the conviction, unchallenged before Hartry Field, that Tarski had settled the problem of truth. Why the change? There are no doubt many ways of telling the story; for example, one might see the scientific realists as taking over a point of view on truth whose motivation sprang completely from problems in philosophy of language. I think that we can learn something more by seeing the use of correspondence-truth as a reaction to difficulties specifically within philosophy of science. These are difficulties that arise within the pre-1970’s version of scientific realism—the version that claimed no more than disquotational truth for our best theories—and it is to the credit of Putnam, Boyd, and the other founding fathers of the causal theory of reference that they—at least some of the time—saw these problems more clearly than their predecessors. I say ‘at least some of the time’ because they, like their present-day descendents, also invoked the correspondence theory in places where scientific realism does not need such help. In what follows I will be sorting all this out: the places where there is no need for a correspondence theory from those in which it is a plausible response to some real problems. I will also argue that it finally does not help with these, and that it seems likely that nothing can. The conclusion I draw is that, instead of trying to fix what cannot be fixed, a realist should change his conception of what realism is. Doing this has the effect of reframing the debates between realist and antirealist in a radical, and I think interesting way, and I will end by saying something about that.1

I Let us begin with an official statement of scientific realism without correspondence2 — what I will call Moderate Scientific Realism (MSR). MSR is the claim that we have good reason to believe true each of the main tenets, and many of the subsidiary claims, of our current theories, or at least to assign a high degree of probability (in the sense of personal probability) to their truth. Truth here is Tarskian, disquotational
1 The larger topic of what becomes of the realist-antirealist debate absent the correspondence theory is barely touched on at the end of this paper; a much more extended discussion can be found in Leeds (2006). 2 I will use the term ‘correspondence truth’ for the kind of theory Kitcher and the rest have in mind; though I think this unfair to us deflationists.

They are as follows. my reasons will not be unfamiliar—indeed. or in counting a particular instance as conforming to the rule. It is also moderate.3 what makes this moderate realism is that. I think all these arguments are at best unnecessary—there are no problems here that MSR cannot handle. I take it that to ask whether we are justified in using a particular rule of reasoning. or that require it to be validated (and we can’t produce the validation). it then follows from the disquotational account of truth that we also have good reasons for believing them true. using arguments acceptable to empiricists. Let us see why. and second. I want however to distinguish his view from that of Horwich’s. The second step in the argument being well-nigh unassailable. that some important kinds of scientific reasons are not good reasons for belief.. maybe more moderate than it needs to be. since it is innocent of any notion of correspondence truth. I cannot hope here to say in any detail why I think none of this need trouble MSR. The ‘true theories’ which. is to ask whether the rule. challenges to MSR have tended to focus on the first step. They have tried to show. 4 This is not entirely uncontroversial: it goes against the ‘externalist’ view of justification according to which no pattern of reasoning counts as justified unless it is truth-tracking. or the particular use of it. in which truth is not definable in terms of satisfaction. that we don’t accept other rules that conflict with it. the notion of truth required here can only be correspondence truth. for example that they tend to be true. he takes the stronger position). for this reason. and to claim (via the pessimistic induction) that our reasons in favor of our best theories. as he makes clear in (Ladyman et al. or an important subset of these. I shall nonetheless speak of our having good reasons to believe our current theories. that those features of the scientific method which empiricists regard with suspicion. To claim that scientific reasons are not good reasons for belief one might deny the legitimacy of such forms of abductive reasoning as inference to the best explanation (IBE). and will take the reader to understand that I am speaking distributively not collectively. as I explain in footnote 4. less sweeping rejection of IBE. only to each of them individually. in that it does not claim that we assign high probability to any conjunction of claims of current theory. for example. roughly. My MSRist does define truth in terms of satisfaction: the disquotationalism shows up in the “dog” refers to dogs—style definition of satisfaction. luckily. it makes no claims about scientific theories in general. according to these arguments. but in fact. (van Fraassen is often read as endorsing only the second. past and future.4 Next. First. with respect to our 3 So my MSRist is a minimalist or deflationist or disquotationalist. and then claim that these are good reasons. more weakly. similarly. is in agreement with our general practice—where to say that a rule of reasoning is ‘in agreement with our general practice’ is to say. It does seem to me that recent discussion has pretty much defeated this view: with the most telling objection to it being that . our methods tend to produce include past and future theories in vocabularies other than our own. I think they represent an emerging consensus about these issues. one might reject IBE only when the conclusion of the argument involves unobservables. they have attempted to establish the tendency of our methodology to produce true theories as a direct counter to the pessimistic induction. 1997). and justify our reasoning by more or less explicitly citing it. although good reasons. The obvious way to argue for MSR is simply to give in detail our reasons for believing our current theories. that we knowingly follow it. no matter what context we use it in. The main lines of attack have been: to claim. One place where Realists have tried to put the correspondence theory to work is in resisting these arguments. on empiricist grounds. tend to produce true theories. are outweighed by better reasons to doubt them.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 3 truth.

’ But (putting aside the possibility that this is one more claim about what science should be doing. namely whether our science is true — whether there are atoms and electrons. it would be a kind of bad faith—but the arguments I have seen.g. 1985) van Fraassen accuses the Realist of a kind of moral turpitude: to use IBE to conclude that there are atoms and electrons is to engage in a hypocritical display of ‘courage under fire’—pretending to take risks when one is in no danger at all. MSR is not a claim about the aims or practice of science. A recent paper by him and others (Ladyman et al. But. putting aside the curious idea that we can’t tell what practice people are following by asking them. gloss as ‘laws. and for these empirical adequacy and truth coincide. just as it is true that a rational being might adopt grue-like inductive rules. and it is noteworthy how little the central positions in that paper disagree with the position I sketched.) Rather than claim that our practice fails to justify IBE in the sense of the position sketched in the text.4 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 prima facie commitment to IBE—our willingness to use it.) One argument that does speak to the issue is the practical argument that pursuing our interest in unobservables leads to ‘inflationary metaphysics’—which Ladyman et al. 1997) gives as complete an account of his recent views as I have seen. or that any of it is in conflict with any other rules of ours. we ought to revise it. of atoms but still be conforming to our usual practice—but I see little reason to think this the intended reading. kinds. there is no particular epistemological privilege enjoyed by the inferences we make in the grocery store. as is amply attested by such practices as the making of wills. then we are in genuine danger of not having our desire satisfied. we do not have a rule that each of our rules needs to be validated by a proof that it tends to the truth before we are allowed to use it (else no one would ever have legitimately given any inductive argument).5 Footnote 4 continued it is hard to see how such a notion of justification might play into any of the uses we want a notion of justification for—the central one being the role it plays in our deciding what to believe. with one exception. One piece of evidence that the position is becoming a consensus is how close van Fraassen’s current position is to it.’ see Kukla’s (1998). e. and finally in cases where they are known to be unobservable—I know of no reason to think that any of this needs to be validated. not only in cases involving observables. van Fraassen’s tendency lately has been to argue that even if this is our practice. one can surely have one’s desires fulfilled or frustrated without one’s knowledge. or reading the science columns in the newspaper. This position is opposed to MSR—at least in the sense that although someone might agree with van Fraassen but still play the game and argue for MSR. since if we are interested in knowing the truth about unobservables. In particular. (Even if it could be argued that in the case of unobservables we will never know that our desire has been satisfied. do not really speak to this issue. (I should mention that Ladyman et al do give one argument that can be read this way but it is hard to believe it is intended seriously: namely. A paper that trenchantly makes this point is Mark Kaplan’s (1991). It is not relevant to claim that science has no interest in unobservables. There is disagreement only if we read van Fraassen as saying that our abductive practice does not so compel us—i. it is a claim about a matter of interest to you and me. since ‘common sense’ deals only with theories about observables. if they exist. and so on. but especially essay. as for rules that might be held to conflict with IBE. Elsewhere (Churchland & Hooker. that our ‘common sense’ abductive practice is consistent with the supposition that we infer only to the empirical adequacy of our theories. causes. passim. But this really begs the point at issue.e. but also in cases in which we don’t yet know whether the inferred entities or properties. such proposals as ‘always accept the weaker of two theories that fit the known facts’ seem pretty clear non-starters. Surely there is no question that nearly everyone believes in viruses—the people who don’t generally believe in other unobservables like souls—and that they will say something that sounds a lot like an IBE if you push them on it. are observable or not. if all he means by the latter is that a rational being might adopt abductive rules other than ours—this is no doubt true. as saying that you might deny the existence. If not then it is hard to see why pursuing our . as opposed to whether you and I should believe in viruses) consider that either there is a persuasive argument that leads from the existence of unobservables to there being some correct ‘inflationary metaphysics’ or there is not. 5 For more on this ‘rule. as opposed to in the lab. or that we can interpret the aims of science in a way that disclaims any such interest. There is no disagreement between my position and van Fraassen’s claim that one is not rationally compelled to accept arguments about unobservables.

explanations. let us assume that we have used the standard translation of ancient Greek or 17th century English science into our current language to allow us to speak of claims in past theories as true or false. the relevant notion of truth or falsity is deflationist. not of the success of his theories. he begins by arguing.e. The MSRist explains why your TV works in terms of the effects of magnetic fields on beams of electrons.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 5 Let us turn now to the idea that our reasons to believe our best theories are outweighed by reasons on the other side. whether he directs it against MSR. since constructive empiricism is always a better explanation of the success of our scientific theories. otherwise I cannot see that it proves anything at all. Now I want to claim that there are two importantly different Footnote 5 continued interest in unobservables should commit us to inflationary metaphysics. and also because what goes wrong here bears a close resemblance to what I will later be claiming goes wrong with the most popular argument to save Realism from certain objections. as scientists. however. But the standards of inference to the best explanation surely advise us to prefer a plausible explanation of so striking a phenomenon over none whatever. Where the MSRist does make use of inference to the best explanation is in ‘ground-level’ explanations—i. the inference to truth comes later. and the antiRealist wants to challenge our use of the method on the basis of its past history. I want to say where I think this argument goes wrong. constructive empiricism does not offer a competing explanation. not that it is true that there are electrons. and I doubt if van Fraassen would subscribe to any such thing. But the MSRist does not argue directly from the success of our theories to their truth. for the purposes of the argument. 7 Since we are discussing the bearing of this argument on MSR. it changes the subject. I am not sure. The first line seems to me bizarre. This would worry me if I were forced to bet with the devil. Consider a typical use of the pessimistic induction.6 This argument is powerful against anyone who proposes to defend realism by arguing that it is the best explanation of our theories’ success. but proposes to get along without an explanation of why your TV works. have made a particular application of a particular scientific method. So. Suppose we. to which I am about to say it is irrelevant. but simply that there are electrons. or making a particular assumption. we see that test or assumption or inference has had a poor track record. or that some inflationary metaphysics is correct but even so having to think about metaphysics is too high a price to pay for finding out about the parts of the world we can’t observe. The second is so clearly a matter of one’s guess about how awful the metaphysics is going to turn out to be that it seems hard to imagine supporting it with any general arguments. I pass over the Dutch book argument against having any non-Bayesian inductive policy. both because I think that there is no general consensus about this. however. but of the phenomena themselves: there are electrons because their existence would explain e. instead. One argument of this form is sometimes advanced in favor of constructive empiricism: that even if one accepts IBE as a legitimate style of inference. and as we look back.g. 6 The source of the argument is a passage in Fine’s (1996a). or against something much closer to the scientific realism of our correspondence theorists. . it cannot be used to establish MSR. the constructive empiricist offers at best an explanation of why it is predictive to speak as if there were magnetic fields and beams of electrons. If there is such an argument. We have been using a certain test. cathode-ray tube phenomena. then one can reject inflationary metaphysics only by saying either that there are no unobservables. or drawing a particular sort of inference. The most prevalent form of the claim that our reasons in favor of our theories are outweighed by reasons against is the pessimistic (meta)induction: the fact that our theories have so often been false7 gives reason to believe them false that outweighs the scientific reasoning in favor of the theories themselves. Here.

6 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 situations in which this can happen. or the frequency of (disquotational) truth of the conditional associated with the inference. it might turn out that the poor track record of the method is decisive—that we cannot explain away the past failures or show that the failure rate is high only in a class which is not the most relevant one. as best explanation. and that the pessimistic induction has seemed more persuasive than it should be by running these together. The first situation is one in which the issue of the correctness of the method can be reformulated as a ‘normal’ scientific hypothesis—that is. most of whose members are false. what is crucial is what these classes are. The fact that the central notions of the pessimistic induction are not particularly unified or natural has been widely noticed. We have as yet no good characterization of what makes for a good explanation. the reasoning is the multi-pronged IBE that supports our belief in the existence of atoms. absent elsewhere in our scientific theories (as opposed to our epistemological talk about these theories). or even of the ‘scientific method’ itself. but there is another. An antiRealist should thus not expect to argue that chemists have failed to notice the failure rate of e. Of course one might object to the specific reasoning by which we do explain away the past failures of our method. and—perhaps even more—that we have a well-founded suspicion that the success rate of any abductive method depends greatly on the circumstances . even if we were certain that most IBEs fail. more significant consequence to be drawn. say. Suppose. as in the particular bit of reasoning. Suppose we know that most IBEs lead to false conclusions. but as an instance of IBE. this tells us that there is a particular class to which this reasoning belongs. And here. And in such cases. but our antiRealist is supposed to be one who accepts scientific reasoning. What makes it difficult to formulate the issue of the correctness of these methods as garden-variety scientific hypotheses is that there is no obvious way to parse out the notions. both that our criteria for IBE’s and simplest theories are many and various. So an antiRealist may fairly claim that the scientists have not squarely faced the question whether IBE tends to lead to correct results. there isn’t much they miss—surely not enough to allow a serious attack on the inferences on which the more central and successful parts of our sciences are based. or what the notion of a ‘simplest’ hypothesis really amounts to. Within the range of hypotheses of the kind scientists take themselves to be committed to considering. that is under challenge. the IBE. Our interest is after all not so much in the pessimistic induction. it is by no means clear that this undercuts the acceptability of the particular one that interests us. and simplicity. It is however no accident that scientists are unused to considering hypotheses about explanation or simplicity in general: on the face of it our criteria for best explanations or simplest theories are a pretty heterogenous assortment. indeed no end of them. This may be right. It is here where it makes a difference. if he expects to get much done using the pessimistic induction he needs to aim it at scientific methods the issue of whose correctness cannot be reformulated as normal scientific hypotheses—this is the second of the two situations mentioned above. one which we would expect journal referees or sceptical fellow scientists to ask us to consider: a hypothesis about the probability of a false positive or negative under the test. or of the choice of the simplest hypothesis (this ‘method’ is no doubt hedged with a great number of provisos). one often sees it claimed that for this reason the induction cannot be well supported. for example. It goes without saying that there exists some such class. or the validity of the assumption.g. The obvious way to do this is to give a very broad characterization of whatever specific reasoning he wants to challenge—to see it not as a use of the flame test. But it would be a very naïve antiRealist indeed who would expect to find many instances of this kind. spectographic analysis.

not quite an explanation but the hope of one. maybe so. for our past failures. I think this is a distinction without a difference: the fact that most things are not very dense also shows that the reference class of arguments that lead to the conclusion that something is dense are for the most part mistaken. not in isolation. the only definition we have of satisfaction is a pretty artificial-looking list. and of course it hardly requires explanation 8 It may seem relevant that in the IBE case it is the actual reasoning employed which turns out to belong to a reference class most of whose members are false. The situation is a bit like the competition between reference classes in ‘direct inference’ in statistics—should we assign Jones a (credal) probability of dying based on the fact that he is a man. 9 A third picture is one in which we usually fail. Second. Until we can show that truth is more ‘natural’ a property than that. is much more successful in daily life. MSR is supported anyway. IBE surely doesn’t fail most of the time in our daily lives)—is that we really ought to consider it. casts doubt only on the conclusion of that reasoning (that there are some things that are very dense). He can propose that the rate of failure among so many IBEs itself cries out for explanation.8 The antiRealist has a reply to this last. biology. and that the best explanation is that the various uses of IBE do share some common feature. and in fact one which rather badly mismatches the way the world is: the tendency of IBE to fail is present whatever the circumstances in which we put it to use. but the issue is whether this characterization is natural enough to outweigh the plausibility of the IBE taken by itself. not with our knowledge of some another reference class to which our IBE belongs. though not entirely: we can explain a whole set of failures in terms of lack of the appropriate mathematics.9 And here three considerations seem to me decisively to favor the first picture: First. and one in which we have—well. Boyle’s Law.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 7 in which we use it:—IBE. say. The competition is really between two entire explanatory pictures: one in which we have an explanation of all the facts that atomic theory explains. We do not allow the fact that virtually all languages spoken in Southern Europe are Indo-European to undermine the reasoning that shows that Basque is an exception. but a few examples will remind the reader of our usual procedure when a persuasive IBE competes with a heterogenous reference class. it is difficult to give exact rules for adjudicating the competition. the detailed accounts in the history books. but rather with the IBE itself. and engineering than in figuring out the ultimate constituents of the universe. These accounts are somewhat piecemeal. and independently of any class we know it to belong to. whereas in the neutron star case this is not so: the competing reference class—the set of all things—rather than casting doubt on the method of reasoning. or based on the fact that he is a smoker? Here the fact that our IBE belongs to a ‘reference class’ most of whose members are false competes. one might wish to protest that seeing an argument as an IBE characterizes it in a much more natural way than seeing it as an argument for the conclusion that something is dense. another set in terms of people’s inability or unwillingness to do the experiments. Against this. which has great plausibility according to our normal criteria for judging IBE’s. it is not a high priority to explain regularities involving truth. since if it wins the competition. that no one has shown that truth is a natural—‘causal-explanatory’—property. but not this time around. . but no systematic account of our past failures. for example. We need not consider this. there are after all reasonable explanatory stories about why we failed at various times in the past—namely. As with direct inferences. but as part of an explanatory package. The trouble with this argument—beyond the fact that it is somewhat overstated (as I remarked above. We do not allow the inference that neutron stars are extremely dense to be undercut by the observation that most things are not all that dense—we expect the composition of an object to make a great deal of difference to its density. but no explanation of.

does this mean the theory is committed to virtual particles? In fact. Finally. one that gets its content from the particular ‘best theories’ that we feed into it. the explanatory account hoped for by the pessimistic induction is after all pretty speculative: it would require not only uniformity in how we approach the various questions in the various sciences. And so on. in view of Rindler particles. and I am almost certain it is true of you too. In the case of QFT. as is well known. then the standard MSR argument seems not to get off the ground. it has no such difficulties considered on its own. Are Feynman diagrams an intrinsic part of QFT.8 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 that no one so much as thought of quantum physics or relativistic spacetime until other more obvious accounts had run into trouble. that when I feed in our best fundamental physical theories. What goes wrong is the very first step in the argument: the step in which we cite as a premiss the conjunction of claims which is supposed to constitute the core of. The trouble is. and any attempt to remedy this immediately calls into question whether we can speak with any confidence of a single well-defined Einstein . which does provide a strong motivation for turning to the correspondence theory. we cannot consider it on its own: in a quantum world. but as outright false. And the trouble is that although there are perhaps some claims within each theory that I might fairly claim to believe (or to assign a high degree of belief to). we find nothing like the continuous and single-valued stress-energy tensor of GTR. our other fundamental theory. MSR is a schematic point of view. these are far from the core of these theories: they do not add up to anything I can identify as QFT or GTR. has arguably no such difficulties. Now it is true of me. GTR. even if the preferred theory offers a less unified explanation of one particular explanandum (think for example of cases in which we finally dismiss observations that were well explained by the rejected theory as due to some unexplained problem with the measuring instruments). or are they just a way of thinking about the perturbation expansion—itself a crutch while we await exact solutions? and if they are part of the theory. or in view of the fact that the theory permits states of the universe which are not eigenstates of any particle number operator? Or is the Copenhagen-type presupposition of my last sentence not part of the theory? and if not. II We have been discussing the supposed difficulties with MSR that are not really difficulties and therefore do not require the correspondence theory for their solution. More precisely. QFT is of course notorious for its interpretive problems. but (what seems a good deal harder to argue for) a hidden uniformity in all the questions themselves—a general tendency of Nature to violate our sense of what is plausible. The reasons for this are familiar. say Quantum Field Theory or General Relativity. the problem is to say what the core claims of the theory are. in view of the fact that any one physicist’s candidates are likely to be rejected by others—not merely as not central. I now turn to a real difficulty. but that doesn’t seem like a physical entity. if the theory hasn’t made up its mind about the eigenstate–eigenvalue link. it is hard to see how it could compete with atomic theory: one could multiply examples in the sciences in which a theory that explains much is preferred over a theory that explains little. is the theory committed in any sense to particles. what does it say about the existence of particles? Is the theory committed to fields? Certainly it talks about an operator field. Even if the account were less speculative than it is.

. if not earlier. This cannot be done. A Realist will want. not even its overall structure in any unambiguous sense of ‘structure.’ that we can point to as the part we actually believe. but there is not one core piece of it. Still. the rest may seem only a technical problem. perhaps there’s a cosmological constant. 14 dimensions. only inserting the word ‘approximately’ in front of ‘true’: for one thing. Showing that we have reason to believe our theories approximately true is a project that requires a correspondence theory. that we have good reason to believe—namely the claim that our theories are approximately true. we are forced to generalize: we must say ‘There is some true theory which GTR approximates. since their Instrumentalist opponents certainly do argue from the peculiarities of modern physics. it hardly needs saying. but our temptation to speak of QFT as well-confirmed might easily suggest that the notion of confirmation he is working with may not be the one we should care about: perhaps the only kind of confirmation we need or want for our theories is the kind that QFT has right now—and if confirming a theory in this way doesn’t justify belief in its truth. we no longer have a disquotational argument . But none of us believes that. but. With a correspondence theory of truth we escape at least part of this problem: we now can make sense of the idea that a theory of ours resembles some true theory in some unspecified language. or should. But their arguments for realism must implicitly bear on these issues. Enter the correspondence theory.’ For a deflationist. The other reason is the enormous temptation to say that in some sense. I suggest that the correspondence theory is one way to acknowledge the force of the suggestion that our theories are in some (non-standard sense) well-confirmed. by repeating the arguments for MSR. these theories are well-confirmed—QTR marvelously so. . a deflationist cannot so much as formulate the goal in a way that doesn’t immediately make us despair of success. once the correspondence theory has gotten us over the first big hurdle. The reason is that there are an uncounted number of ways in which GTR might be approximately true: perhaps spacetime is granular.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 9 tensor. what exactly is a problem for Realists here? Why not say that MSR works when it does. Our correspondence theorists don’t often represent themselves as trying to address the challenges posed by modern physics—a pity this. This of course leaves the problem of arguing that our theories are approximately true. a ‘true theory’ must mean a true theory formulable in his language: a deflationist can believe his theory approximately true only if he believes that some theory formulable in his language is strictly true. To say that our theory is approximately true. no doubt. The first is that it is questionable whether our problems with fundamental physics will ever go away. and that’s all a Realist needs? There are two reasons (at least) why a Realist might hesitate before making this response. ever since the 20’s. So we end up in a position with GTR which resembles the situation with QFT: we would like to say there is something right about the theory. and thus of the spacetime metric itself. and that it does so by giving us the terminology we need to say that it is something else that really is well-confirmed. perhaps there’s a superposition of the values of the metric. so much the worse for Realism. given that the challenges of modern physics to realism have been on the table. the trouble with this is that. or in the Science section of your newspaper. for him. and strange too. We might wonder how easy it is to define the relevant sort of resemblance. then. to reserve the term ‘confirmation’ only for a relation between theories and knowers that increases the knower’s degree of belief in the individual statements or the core statements of the theory. the response makes Realism sound likely to turn out a mere historical curiosity. well. and it is useful to ask how.

there is at least a pattern of inference of this type that we employ when we don’t know anything about a theory other than that it is successful. But we do not do this. the fact that the pessimistic metainduction has been put forward and taken seriously shows that there is more than one way to project our past history of successes and failures into the future: it seems hard to defend the idea that it is the property of approximate truth rather than approximate falsehood which deserves to be projected unless one can argue that it is approximate truth which explains the past successes. I don’t know how one would establish the existence of such a pattern of inference. I see no reason to think we are in the habit of counting them twice. The success-to-truth inference can be of use to us only if it adds something new: only if. the existence of electrons. When we argue from the phenomena to. sometimes. No doubt you and I sometimes believe a theory true without knowing the arguments (we might read about it in the newspaper) but then our reason for believing the theory true is that we have divided our labors with the scientists: we assume that we would approve of their reasoning if we knew it. Are we ever presented with a theory about which all we know is that it was successful: we don’t even know that it struck someone as plausible enough to write down? . and as such requires no separate argument. so probably QFT is too. so there is no harm done by following the literature here. for example ‘Approximately there are virtual particles?’—what would that mean? 11 It might be claimed that. there has been a considerable amount of discussion over the years about its first step: that the best explanation of our past successes (or. And indeed there is an argument that seems to hold promise here—I think it is essentially the only one. and restating these arguments using semantic ascent cannot change matters. The argument for the approximate truth of our theories must use something other than the piece-by-piece confirmation of the parts: it must be an argument that directly addresses the approximate truth of the whole theory. If this is what one means by saying that we accept a rule of inference from success to truth.11 Returning to TRA. the problems with the IBE version will apply to any purely inductive version of TRA as well. so there is reason to think that a successful theory like QFT is likewise approximately true. This is the argument that the best explanation of our past successes is the approximate truth of our theories in the past. TRA should be distinguished from the claim that the inference from success to truth is simply part of our standard justificatory practice. I follow most of the literature in formulating this argument (let’s call it The Realist Argument or TRA) as an IBE rather than as the straight inductive argument that past successful theories have been approximately true. that all inductions are IBE’s. we always have the option of summarizing our arguments using semantic ascent: instead of saying that we conclude that there are electrons because their existence would make all sorts of effects fall into place. though it takes superficially different forms. first I think defended by Harman. say. irretrievably false. The predictive successes of a theory already enter into the ground-level arguments. for example. 10 It can’t be. There is reason for doing this: whatever you think about the view. although the success-to-truth inference adds nothing when we know the arguments for a theory. then it cuts no ice here: we are assuming that the ground-level arguments are by themselves insufficient to persuade us to believe QFT. As it turns out.10 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 whose conclusion is ‘S is approximately true’—what would its premises be?10 —and in any case we don’t want such an argument: the only sense in which our theories might be approximately true allows any individual central claim in the theory to be deeply. after giving all the ground-level arguments for a theory. we say that we have inferred the truth of electron-theory from its success. we were in the habit of awarding it extra points because it was successful.

But I do not see why a deflationist should need to eliminate all use of ‘true’ in explanations. have an interest in blocking any attempt to see the notion of truth as projectible—in arguing against the first step in TRA. That there is any referential map under which beliefs as detailed as our own give so largely correct a picture of the world is a wonderful fact about us—perhaps it is the wonderful fact about us—and one can always hope that we can find an explanation of how it came to be—or. Kitcher. is endlessly and systematically versatile. an explanation more systematic than simply telling the history of science. the second step in the argument— projecting the truth of current and future successful theories as the best explanation of their success—will be smooth sailing. deflationist or not. that establishing the first step shows that truth is a ‘causal-explanatory’ notion. In fact a deflationist can extend this to past theories (and so agree with the whole of the first step in TRA) by using the standard translations of past scientific vocabularies into ours to specify exactly what he means by the approximate truth of past theories. But this still leaves the second step to be argued for. or of mankind. nonetheless. for two reasons: first. So I think that every realist. Speaking as a deflationist who once participated in this project.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 11 the present success of the part of our current theory that doesn’t have the problems of foundational physics) is that our theories have been approximately true. and that once we have done this. Let us suppose (what a deflationist need not concede) that the first step of TRA has established that truth is a notion suitable for use in broadly inductive reasoning (so we are supposing that we understand ‘correspondence truth’ well enough to formulate hypotheses about the truth or approximate truth of future theories—although again a deflationist need not concede this). systematic account of how people come to have good maps of Venice needs to show how we can replace every explanation of the form ‘I looked on the map. rather. because to deny that past theories succeeded because they were true is to fly in the face of the obvious. in which case there is no reason why this remarkable fact should not in turn be used to explain other facts. In the case . Any of us who. it should go without saying that every case of projecting a ‘best explanation’ into the future needs to be judged on its own merits. I think. and second because conceding the first step in TRA is very far from conceding the whole argument. believes also that there is a referential map under which our beliefs are largely true. such as our successes in dealing with the world. But even if we can offer no more unified explanation of our coming to have accurate representations of the world than we can offer for the evolution of Sonata form or baseball. believes a huge proportion of what the scientists and historians tell us. goes carefully through the attempts by various deflationists to explain our successes without appealing to truth. any more than someone who thinks there is no general. can agree that the success of our current theories (the unproblematic ones) is explained by their being true. 1995)) that it was misguided. everyone should agree that we have come to have such representations. And so antirealists have joined forces with deflationists—who. and saw that if I followed this street I would land in a canal’ with one that doesn’t make implicit reference to the particular projection under which the map resembles Venice. although often scientific realists. he has no trouble arguing that their alternative explanations leave out the fact that our map of the world. often by trying to show how to eliminate the notion of truth from all explanations across the board. like you and me. I think (and have argued in (Leeds. whose (Kitcher. 2002) is a good representative of the correspondence theorist’s side of the discussion. It is often assumed. being a largely correct one.

any theory that tells us that roses are blue. if one wants to claim that we approach the truth. or because our hunches about what is plausible tend to favor the more-or-less true theories. shouldn’t we take the fact that we have come up with. However. either because our methods are able to test theories in ways that prevent the really false ones from being successful. and I suggest that before concluding that there is such a tendency we need some rough inkling of how this might happen. and in some sense accept. do our methods track the truth? Sure. mightn’t it be that were we to come up with an accurate description of our inductive methodology we would also be able to give a ‘ground-level’ argument that the universe is such as to allow this methodology to be truth-tracking? And if we now have reason to think this would be the case. and they are relevant to our assessment of QFT. But such a tendency doesn’t come out of nowhere—it supervenes on what our methods are. then we have already used them (and found them insufficient) long before the correspondence theorist appeared on the scene: if it’s a point in QFT’s favor that we used geometrical ideas (e. we need to ask for even more. Now if you get down to the details of any particular feature of our inductive methodology. how exactly we order hypotheses by simplicity.g. We discard any theory that claims that 2 + 3 = 6. we can eliminate reference to our methods in this way only when we know what these methods are. But I don’t think we can get even this much. There’s much we don’t know about how we reason—for example. Well. so I won’t bother to formulate a more extensive claim on behalf of the correspondence theorist. is whether our methods track the truth in ways that will be helpful in the situation that TRA is addressing: a situation in which the ground-level arguments in support of a theory have left us in doubt whether the theory is true. and we are hoping for an argument to shore up our confidence in at least its approximate truth.’ Here is a possible response for the defender of TRA: Admittedly. In such cases. you will generally be able to find some general claim about the world which will hold if and only if that feature tracks the truth. one tracks the truth by preferring geometrically formulated theories over others iff the world is geometrical. we may be able to argue for the general claim about the world: perhaps we have inductive reason for thinking that the world is in the appropriate sense geometrical and of course we have excellent reason to think that roses aren’t blue. a particular theory as an additional reason in favor of that theory’s approximate truth? 12 In fact. which can then play its role in our ordinary scientific reasoning without any need for talk about us and our methods. and what the world is like. representations of the Poincare group) in creating it. then that point is made no stronger when we reformulate the claim ‘The world has a geometry’ as ‘Our method is truth-tracking in assuming the world has a geometry. . But if we can give such arguments. It is truth-tracking to assume that no roses are blue if and only if they aren’t blue. however.12 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 at hand. and so on. we will presumably want to argue that the process by which we think up and test theories is such as to make it unlikely that we will hold (or long hold) successful theories that are very far from the truth. The issue. any claim that a particular feature of our methods tracks the truth can always be replaced by a ‘ground-level’ claim about the world. The ‘unlikely’ in the statement above is an ‘objective’ probability—it talks about a tendency of our methods to track the truth. As soon as logicians came up with a correct characterization of deductive reasoning. we constrain our theories in all sorts of ways that have the effect of ruling out false theories.12 But I want to stress that one needs to argue this. they were able to argue that it tracked the truth.

In fact. is truth-tracking—except of course by arguing directly that the particular theories they favor are true?13 Against this. suppose (what is more likely) that we can give a deeper characterization than we have so far of what it is that makes us value a theory as giving an intelligible picture of the world. . It might be useful to know these things—it would allow us to do consciously what we already do by instinct. It is the only plausible strategy I have been able to think of. if one could argue that otherwise the story of our past successes would be an inexplicable mystery: such an argument might override our scepticism about any particular feature one might offer as a candidate. Take for example. Boyd’s (1973). however. and whether it can legitimately be. itself an instance of IBE. Now no doubt 13 In which case arguing that our methods track the truth would not provide them any additional confirmation. in which case the central questions to ask about Boyd’s argument are whether it is. e. My argument against TRA has depended on two assumptions: that any claim that one of our methods tracks the truth can be ‘factored’ into a statement about what that method is and a ‘groundlevel’ claim about the nature of the world. 1973) is the conventionalist challenge to GTR. these projects tend to have enough in common with the one we’ve been discussing so that in fact our discussion applies with few changes to them too.g. for example. III So I think the correspondence theory offers little promise of allowing us to believe in the approximate truth of theories that we would otherwise find problematic. Suppose we were to learn that we tend to rate theories more highly if they obey a particular interesting syntactic condition. To say this isn’t automatically to say that every use to which philosophers try to put the correspondence theory (or the hope that there is one) is doomed to failure. the only challenge to realism mentioned in (Boyd. I do not say this is the only strategy: Descartes’ Meditations. (Boyd. although later writings of Boyd are explicitly directed against van Fraassen. or even to think of ways to revise or extend our methods—but isn’t it clear that we wouldn’t know where to begin trying to show that the syntactic condition. and it is quite relevant if we are sure that no particular feature that anyone might suggest would be such that we would find reason to think that it was truth-tracking. We are trying to decide whether the past successes of our science give us reason to think that there are undiscovered features of our reasoning that allow it to track the truth. But no one has given such an argument. and that the best strategy for showing that the method is truth-tracking is by supporting the ground-level claim. not that we would be able to establish their existence. That would be a mistaken response. or our sense of what makes a theory intelligible. 1973) antedates The Scientific Image. we know it well enough to know that understanding it better than we do would lead us to no new ‘ground-level’ claims about the world that we would have any reason to believe. gives a completely different argument to show a certain method truth-tracking. a paper that as much as any other initiated the current interest in invoking correspondence theories to defend scientific realism. The situation would be different if we had a general argument to show that there must be such features. But as it turns out.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 13 The answer to this suggestion is that even if we aren’t able to characterize our methodology in detail. Most of us think of Boyd’s target as an empiricist like van Fraassen who rejects using IBE to infer to unobservables. I can imagine a defender of TRA saying that it’s irrelevant whether we can argue for the ground-level uniformities that make our methodology succeed: his hypothesis is that there are such uniformities.

let us suppose. not only empiricist challenges to IBE. do not favor GTR over its flat-spacetime. by arguing that. Boyd is talking about a principle P that plays an important role in our methodology (Never mind for the moment what P is). we have additional reason to think that because GTR is the theory which in some sense our methodology has selected. it is the fundamental theoretical notions of GTR such as ‘spacetime metric’—as opposed to those of the flat-spacetime theories—which denote real entities. say.’ or does it mean objectively probable. So we can see Boyd as using what turns out to be a version of TRA as a response to Grunbaum. to an explanation of why we accept theories favored by P. I think one reason he overlooks the need for an argument that P is reliable (or that the extension of it used in choosing GTR is reliable) is what appears to be a confusion between the objective and subjective senses of ‘likely:’ he claims that our reasoning is ‘inductive’ in the sense that it moves from the premise that none of the forces we are acquainted with is a ‘universal’ force in Reichenbach’s sense to the conclusion that there are no such forces anywhere. no one disputes the truth of the background theories. but at least some of the specific worries that arise in modern physics. universal-force competitors. in addition to the ordinary scientific reasons that. he has to see his defense of P as bearing on more general features of our methodology. This result is weaker than Boyd needs: in the case of GTR. and then goes on to argue that the truth of the background theories makes this bit of inductive reasoning ‘likely’ to be true. used against a background of true theories. It turns out that what gets argued for is not that P is reliable because. that newly accepted theories will also provide approximately true causal accounts at the theoretical as well as observational level. Poincare and Grunbaum did not reject IBE across the board—they had special problems about its use in GTR. and because only this fits in with an explanation of the reliability of P as opposed. Now P turns out to be the principle of testing theories where. But although there are uncontroversial claims in this general vicinity involving . here things go astray. Boyd sees a defense of P as at least a partial defense of “inter-theoretic judgments of plausibility” in general. It is not question-begging to use an IBE against them. while the competing theories have not been. it is precisely the new abductive step that is controversial. you think they are most likely to fail.14 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 someone who rejects IBE will reject GTR as well. In the following passage. it seems to me. but both here and in later writings. it is likely (objectively) to produce true theories. As for the actual argument for P. both because otherwise it is irrelevant whether the background theories reflect the actual causal relations (good reasoning is good reasoning even when the background theories are wrong). still. This seems a rather limited principle. in turn. Rather. “[Part of the strategy in defense of P will be to] argue that the only plausible explanation for the reliability of P lies in the assumption that it operates with respect to background theories which themselves reflect the actual causal relations among theoretical entities in such a way as to make it likely. So Boyd is committed to an across-the-board argument that our methodology is reliable—an argument which is supposed to answer. it isn’t that GTR has been tested where it is most likely to fail.” What does ‘likely’ mean here? Does it mean ‘reasonable to believe in the light of our methodology. if it is to connect with the issue about GTR: whatever distinguishes GTR from competing theories offered by the conventionalist. Indeed. in some sense of ‘probable’ related to the notion of a tendency or propensity? I think it is clear that it must mean the latter. in the light of the background. what is argued is that a necessary condition for P’s reliability is that the background theories are true.

’ But (EEA4). and giving it a pass if it turns out successful. or is he pointing out that it is a non sequitur? No doubt he is correctly pointing out the latter. and if you follow this by running together ‘inductively likely’ with the objective notion you need. it is these which we should accept ‘realistically’. Is Kitcher begging questions against the EE argument. but then you don’t need to invent a whole new method of inference to reply to EE. often. 2001) is largely concerned with answering a particular van Fraassen-style empiricist argument. his own method of inference.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 15 a epistemic sense of ‘likely’—e.’ and (EEA4) follows only if you insert ‘exclusively’ before ‘to conclusions. in the teeth of the EE argument? Of course not: it’s just common sense. (EEA3) Thus.. we can only check methods of justification that lead to conclusions . trivial) task of showing that our methods confer epistemic likelihood. Against the empiricist. defenders of TRA overlook how hard it is to show any of our methods reliable is by confusing this with the much easier (really. The empiricist argument (EE) he is trying to counter is. he writes as if arguing for the truth of the background theories settled the matter. although he is quite aware of how far most of our abductive reasoning is from narrow inductions. then (EEA2) really should read ‘showing that it has led to a few correct conclusions’ but then (EEA3) needs to insert ‘some’ before ‘conclusions. 14 I have not read through all the subsequent papers of Boyd’s on this subject. has nothing to say against IBE. but a sampling of them suggests that. (EEA2) We can only check a putative method of justification by showing that it tends to lead to correct conclusions.14 Boyd is not atypical in making this mistake. one way in which. he deals with the objection that he has tested it only on observable cases. one which is equally applicable when its conclusion concerns unobservables as when it is about observables.[about observables] (EEA4) Therefore we have no basis for trusting putative methods of justification that lead to conclusions whose truth values cannot be directly ascertained just by investigating observables. here one in which the role played by TRA is not so immediately apparent. . in his presentation. Should we take checking a method to be: showing that the method tends to lead to true conclusions? This makes EEA2 acceptable. Does he show it legitimate to proceed this way. For Kitcher the success-to-truth inference takes us not to the truth of entire theories. A central section of (Kitcher. if he is to persuade Grunbaum. If this is what it is to check a method.g. that believing a theory true I will reasonably have confidence in the conclusion of a good inductive argument whose premises are drawn from that theory—what Boyd needs. What makes Kitcher’s taking this argument seriously a little mysterious is the way in which. Here are the first few steps: “(EEA1) The only claims we can directly justify are those about observables. but to the (approximate) truth of certain statements within those theories—the statements that are crucial to a ‘fine-grained’ pattern of prediction. after coming up with. surprisingly weak. 2002) provide a more recent example of a project on which our discussion has some bearing. for example? The answer seems to be that Kitcher has bought into the empiricist suspicion of all ampliative methods of reasoning other than inductions:15 what makes the success-to-truth inference acceptable in a way in which your run-of-the-mill IBE is not is that we can give an inductive argument to support the former. in this form.” This argument doesn’t even get off the ground if to check a method has its usual meaning of trying the method in a few cases. Kitcher’s (2001. 15 I can give no good reason for this on Kitcher’s behalf. Why is it the success-totruth inference which is singled out as the style of ampliative reasoning that survives empiricist criticism? Why not IBE. and arguing for. he never takes adequate account of this when he attempts to explain why our scientific methodology is reliable: rather. It does only if you regard induction as more general a method than it is. indeed tautologous. He simply points out that this gives no reason not to use the method when unobservables are involved. but now how do you get to (EEA3)?—all that follows is that if a method of justification leads to conclusions about unobservables then you can’t show it tends to lead to true conclusions in one particular way: namely by looking at every prediction the method ever makes. Kitcher argues that we are justified in making a certain kind of inference from success to truth. since this reading invalidates (EEA2). is to argue that the conclusion is objectively likely—has a high chance of being true.

‘semantics can be conducted as a natural science’ (Kitcher. This leaves unclear the precise role the success-to-truth inference is supposed to play in sorting out the parts of our theory we should believe ‘realistically’ from those we should not. although largely aimed at answering the empiricist. 16 Earlier we discussed Kitcher’s defense of the idea that the use of truth in explanations shows it to be a meatier notion than deflationists suppose: in Kitcher’s words. Leplin’s defense of this rule seems to me a model for the way one ought to defend a rule telling us when we are justified in believing a theory: he argues that the rule is implicit in our current practice. the people who are able to fine-grained predict what’s going to happen are just the ones who hold true theories. in fact. 1997). What sets the success-to-truth inference apart is that we can give it an inductive justification. he is rejecting a host of inductions that would fail to give the connection he needs between truth and fine-grained predictive power: people in ordinary situations who are able to make wholly unexpected predictions usually hold true theories. Kitcher really needs a story about why it is fine-grained prediction in particular that should be reliable. as one among many rules of inference that are acceptable because part of our common practice. as it would be if he were proposing it. and so on. I assume that one reason for wanting this—one reason. parts of those theories that we all (not just empiricists) regard as problematic we should accept as approximately true. as follows: we know already that. people in ordinary situations who have studied a question carefully. so to speak. Kitcher’s argument for the reliability of the success-to-truth inference is thus not dispensable. who suggests that we conclude a theory is correspondence-true when it makes predictions that are. if any. 347). in quite ordinary situations. After all. and there is no reason not to generalize this to situations involving unobservables. especially since fine-grained predictive power is bound to be controversial as a criterion for what parts of our science we should take literally—e. in the style of MSR. Kitcher cannot be one of them. p. proves the rule—a correspondence theorist who makes no use of TRA. . novel. Putting this problem aside. turns out to have bearing on the issue I have been urging is the important one: which. of which it is possible to give a ‘naturalistic account’—that is. reference is a ‘causal relation’ between words and things. A final example—an exception that.g. indeed. given that he has no difficulties with inductions involving unobservables (his validation of the success-to-truth inference is precisely such an induction) one would expect that he would also recommend our taking realistically those statements about unobservables which we can support inductively. For example. are usually right. This is Leplin (Leplin. and done what seems to them to be sufficient testing in order to eliminate plausible alternatives to their best guess about the answer. it is apparent that Kitcher intends the success-to-truth inference somehow to make the division. 2002. doesn’t it tell us to believe literally in Feynman diagrams? But it is hard to imagine what such a story might be. it is hard to suppose that any light can be shed on our problems with Feynman diagrams by looking really carefully at how we get around in the supermarket. even when they play no particular role in fine-grained prediction. in an appropriate and carefully worked-out sense.16 The trouble with this argument is that even if there are some philosophers who are willing to buy into inductive arguments that don’t so much as hint why the particular property we’re inducting on should be the one that projects into the future. for formulating everything in terms of correspondence truth rather than deflationist truth—is precisely to have truth be a projectible property which we can use in an inductive argument.16 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 There are some aspects of Kitcher’s position that I find a little obscure. And so his project.

for example. and some parts we take Realistically: correspondence-truth is supposed to mark this distinction. . But let us suppose that we accept that the weight of argument. our argument also suggests that there is no explanatory theory whatever in which correspondence truth has a role to play—for it is hard to see what else such a theory might be. One clear implication is that the problem about our contemporary theories that motivates the correspondence theory in the first place (or which at any rate is its most defensible motivation) is one that we cannot escape except by changing our physics: there is no reason to think that when ordinary scientific argument fails to convince us of the truth of our best theories. disquotational truth will do well enough. and to allow us to state credible Realistic theses weaker than the flat-out claim that our current theories are true—it is not needed for the first. Why is he not then just an ordinary defender of MSR—or the weaker thesis that sometimes one is justified in believing a theory disquotation-true? Leplin points out that there are some parts of any physical theory that we regard as merely of instrumental value. Attempts to give an explicit definition of reference for arbitrary words in arbitrary languages having so far failed. Kitcher’s approach in (Kitcher. it seems that a correspondence theorist’s best prospects for convincing us that the notion of correspondence truth is a legitimate one is to do so indirectly by pointing to some explanatory theory in which that notion does some work—this is. In fact I think that our argument suggests a stronger conclusion. IV I have been arguing that of the two tasks the correspondence theory might be called upon to perform—to answer the empiricist. is against it. seems unable to sort out the Realistic parts of a theory from the rest. but I think Leplin escapes needing to give an explicit argument about the tendency of our methods to lead to the truth only by ignoring this motivation when he gets around to his criterion of novelty. But in suggesting that there is no general theory about the tendency of scientific reasoning to approach the truth. a philosophical argument can step in to close the gap. at least for now. I agree that this is reason to want a correspondence theory. 17 I am here relying on my previous discussion and citations therein. and here is where TRA would enter in. and there is no reason to think it can achieve the second. no doubt it will walk again.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 17 and that it is in various ways a reasonable rule to follow. for the claim that the correspondence theory cannot help in explaining why the particular theories we believe are successful: when we are in a position to say that they are successful because they are true. and ask what the implications are for the whole set of issues we classify under the heading of Realism—pro and con. being theory-wide. 2001). perhaps in guises that our discussion has not even dreamt of. So I think the version of the novelty criterion that would do the work he wants it to do would need to be argued for on the basis of past success. A version of the novelty criterion which did sort this out would presumably not be one we could read off from our standard justificatory procedures: we don’t generally judge the separate claims of a theory by asking whether they lead to novel predictions (sometimes they are just a reasonable inference from other parts of the theory). and no ideas in this line having surfaced in some time. His criterion.17 I can hardly claim here to have sealed the tomb of the correspondence theory.

but in addition some claim put forward by Realists about the nature of the world outside our theorizing. . give credence to the kind of realist existence and nonexistence claims I have been mentioning. does he thereby fail to be a Realist. nor. without the correspondence theory. not as a disagreement over which strategy is likely to allow us to arrive at our agreed-upon goals (this would just reduce to a disagreement over the nature of the world). (Fine. For an example of the kind of issue that I have in mind. not (or not only) the correspondence theory. that he is offering a claim about truth: for example. First. Fine is a good example for my purposes for two reasons. where this is understood. often. It would indeed be novel and exciting if Fine rejected the disquotational theory of truth.” Unfortunately for our hopes of discovering a substantive thesis on which Fine and the Realists can be said to disagree. This is that. the disagreement is over is what kinds of theories we ought to be pursuing. the only ‘theory’ connected with disquotational truth is the claim that that notion coincides with our ordinary notion of truth. And perhaps Fine would agree: a few pages later in the same essay. but there is hardly any theory here to reject: disquotational truth is just a notion that we define according to a familiar and unexceptional mode of definition. Here is a typical passage: “Einstein wanted to claim genuine reality for the central theoretical entities of the general theory [of relativity]. One might indeed dispute the existence of the spacetime manifold—spacetime relationists are in the business of doing just that—but it is plain that Fine’s interest is not in taking a stand on relationalism.I believe the majority opinion among working. But few.18 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 There is another consequence of abandoning the correspondence theory that I want to discuss in more detail. Fine sometimes seems to be rejecting. Rather. a good place to turn is the writings of Arthur Fine. it is easier to notice an important aspect of our current discussions of Realism which not only resists formulation as a debate about truth. but rather as a disagreement about the goals themselves. more often coming from his readers than from Fine himself. rather than a thesis we are invited to believe. It is hard to see what this contrast might amount to. of Fine himself) to try to cram his position into the mold of offering or denying some thesis about the world is a good illustration of how hard it can be to see that a debate over Realism need not be about such theses at all. Consider the suggestion. since one can be a Moderate Scientific Realist without allowing for any notion of correspondence truth. but if this is all he is doing then he has nothing new to tell us. 1996a. the existence and non-existence claims Fine has been mentioning include such claims as that there is a spacetime manifold. . His objection is not to claiming that the spacetime manifold exists. because I think that he makes most sense as proposing something other than a claim about the world: the Natural Ontological Attitude (NOA) is an attitude we are invited to take up. because the tendency of his readers (and. 123). but to the claim that it has genuine Reality. since we too are parts of the world I will not bother in the future to say this explicitly). I believe. And second. but in fact is not happily formulated as a debate over any thesis about the world (or the place of us and our theorizing in it. knowledgeable scientists is that general relativity provides a magnificent organizing tool for treating [certain problems]. as a raftload of commentators have pointed out. and here Fine has no axe to grind either way—although his general tone seems sympathetic to the disquotationalists. that he is rejecting the correspondence theory. he can be found asserting that the Realist has no thesis at all: that all his Realism amounts to is thumping the table and shouting . No doubt he is. p.

From this point of view. Or largely separated from these: I do not dispute that one argument in favor of giving up the pursuit of Realistic theories is that current physics gives us some reason to think that no Realistic theory that we can create and understand is going to be successful. what defensible alternatives there are to looking for Realistic theories—is a topic that is beyond the scope of this paper. but the methodological views of Einstein the working scientist—and in particular the Einstein of the debates with Bohr: that is. since there is something else just as good we can be doing. What is described in (Fine. one needs to add that not only can’t we find Realistic theories. This is. one which takes different forms given different shared backgrounds. and important disagreement. as a theory according to which well-individuated objects interact locally in space and time. I think however that it does not quite capture what Fine is saying: for that. I am suggesting. We can see more clearly what Fine is after if we recall that for him. the paradigm Realist is Einstein. and what Fine rejects in (Fine. uncovered by Fine in a fascinating essay (Fine. Now there are some obiter dicta of Einstein. which I explore in the longer version of this paper. It is this last issue which. A conception of Realism as a general requirement on our theories. More hopefully for Realism. Einstein’s insistence. And the core of Fine’s disagreement with Einstein is not over what the world is like. as against Bohr. If we can only characterize it. is that the Realist wants theories which. but that it isn’t a bad thing if we can’t.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 19 ‘Real!’. the Einstein who judged quantum theory as being unacceptable from a Realistic point of view. 1996a). and I cannot see any other strategy for arguing that there is something wrong with a theory which does not so represent it. which indeed suggest unhealthy tendencies in the direction of the correspondence theory. both in (Fine. This is certainly a claim about the world. What exactly Fine has in mind—and more generally. are not the metaphysical views of Einstein the part-time philosopher. This however does little to explain one’s sense that Fine and the Realist have a genuine. or spacetime. Realism appears here as an attribute of theories. these however play a rather peripheral role. taken together. not as a claim about the nature of the world. 1996a) on NOA from which I quoted above. as for most of us. in spacetime. given that all parties agreed that the world consisted of particles and fields in spacetime. that much depends on we characterize the notion of a Realistic theory. but whether we should be trying to pursue theories that are sufficiently Realistic. may be more easily defensible . 1996b) on Einstein’s Realism. Such a characterization seems to be a reasonable way to give expression to the familiar idea that a Realistic theory is one such that we know what the world would be like if the theory were true. then I think the cause of Realism is lost: it is unlikely that one can give a Kantian argument that any coherent conception of the world that we can give must represent it as. One possibility along these lines. for example. it might turn out that what the Realist wants from our theories can be characterized in quite general terms. can be separated from debates about the nature of the world. that quantum theory be explicit about what processes were taking place in spacetime when one made a measurement can be seen as the natural way to make the demand that our theories be specific about central ontological questions. as perhaps Einstein himself would have. 1996b) describes. answer as many as possible of the central ontological questions that one can pose in the vocabularies of these theories—questions about what sorts of things the basic objects and processes described in our theories are and what relations hold between them. 1996b). and in the essay (Fine. but perhaps one general remark would not be out of place.

I do not think an NOAist has any difficulty with taking truth as defined by the Tarski schema.20 It was only from the Realist’s viewpoint that MSR 18 Nothing I say here is meant to include the possibility—indeed. at what stage (if ever) in the EPR experiment the unmeasured particle acquires a definite momentum: taking such questions seriously just follows naturally on adopting the attitude of belief towards the claim that the world consists of particles and fields in spacetime. with its implied contrast with ascribing to it some other status.20 Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 than a more specific conception. the likelihood—that belief comes in degrees. It would be tedious to take account of this explicitly. but it could be done: thus. without yet being forced to see every question about it as having a definite answer. since it agrees with the Realist that the goal of our theorizing is to find theories that we can believe. but I will say no more about it here. the theory van Fraassen would have us believe is not one about the stars and atoms. and his attitude towards X is simply the Realist’s disbelief. The problem is that imposing the kind of regimentation on the sentences of physics that is needed for a satisfaction definition requires one to make up one’s mind about precisely the kinds of ontological questions that I follow Musgrave in thinking an NOAist will want to duck.19 I argue in (Leeds. but claim that there are attitudes and attitudes: one might be in some sense committed to the existence of spacetime. van Fraassen’s position has conceded too much to the Realist. To be sure. at least as applied piecemeal to the various claims of current-day physics: so long as he is not called on to decide whether particle-talk is disguised talk about fields or conversely. 19 From this point of view. . and thereby moving from ‘Photons are bosons’ to ‘It is true that photons are bosons. could not legitimately dismiss a question such as. Such an antirealist might see Fine’s phrase about ascribing genuine Reality to spacetime. Interestingly. about what the world is like. And similarly elsewhere. But in fact the issues about attitudes were on the table right from the beginning. A natural response for the realist to make is to question whether we can really make sense of such an attitude. and therefore that it is true that photons are bosons. and the attempts by correspondence theorists to improve on it.’ Fine has suggested that he has no problem either with defining truth via satisfaction as Tarski did. there is another way in which van Fraassen concedes more to the Realist than an antirealist needs to: he endorses the realist’s project of coming up with Realistic theories—theories such that we know what the world would be like if they were true. An antirealist might concede this. A Realist might claim that someone who believed. 2006). I should have said that when you believe a theory to some degree you (to the same degree) take questions within the theory to be questions that should be taken seriously. a few sentences back. as a misleading description of an important contrast: that between believing18 in the existence of spacetime and adopting another. (Notice. for example. This is the direction in which I think realist and antirealist really have something to argue about. the antirealist position I am imagining—the one I think Fine wants to occupy—is one in which our attitude to General Relativity does not contrast unfavorably with our attitude towards some other theory. however. that van Fraassen’s characterization of observational adequacy makes essential use of the idea that our theories have well-defined models.) 20 More precisely. following out a suggestion of Alan Musgrave (1989) that Fine’s NOA is supposed to be just such an attitude. that all events unfolded within the spacetime manifold. he is perfectly happy to say that photons are bosons. The case of Einstein and Bohr in fact suggests one way in which such a defense might go. weaker but still committal attitude to its existence. but this is not so clear to me. To see the debate between Realist and antirealist as being over what attitudes we can take and want to take towards our theories might appear to take us far from our earlier discussion of the failure of MSR. as Bohr presumably did. By contrast. but his attitude towards T is the same as the Realist’s belief. Consider the fact that an antirealist like Fine has no trouble with MSR. I am not sure however that this is so much a commitment of Constructive Empiricism as it is a view that the originator of that position happens to hold. but only a theory T to the effect that some other theory X about stars and atoms is observationally adequate.

Leeds. Studies in scientific realism. Churchland. 86–112). & van Fraassen. New York: Oxford University Press. Horsten. Kitcher. Kukla. the Galilean strategy. (1997). C. Chicago: University of Chicago Leplin. Or. The scientific image. 88. Real realism. Epistemology on holiday. 1–12. available online at the PhilSci Archive http://philsci-archive. (2001). i. Realism. (1996a).). S. to believe them.e. What was harder to see—what perhaps could not be seen until we abandoned the false attractions of the correspondence theory—is that what to make of this suggestion is the issue between realist and antirealist. A Defence of van Fraassen’s Critique of Abductive Reasoning: Reply to Psillos..pitt. Philosophical Review. Philosophical-Quarterly. but that he can’t believe them to be true. 110(2). In The shaky game: Einstein. A. 112–136). 151–197. Truth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and Success. Horwich. Philosophical Quarterly 47(188). & Hooker. Correspondence.. P. B. 64(2). but there is no reason to formulate his quandry in terms of truth. M. Correspondence Truth and Scientific Realism. 305–321. (1989). (1973). Oxford: Clarendon Press. with a reply from Bas C. If we put things this way. the antirealist’s suggestion that there are attitudes we might aim at other than belief seems a natural one. (1980). R. Psillos. L.. Einstein’s realism. Images of science: Essays on realism and empiricism. (1996b). and the quantum theory (2nd ed. realism. B. van Fraassen. however. Nous. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Douven. New York: Oxford University Press. Leeds. (2002). NOA’s Ark—Fine for realism. New York: Oxford University Press. Truth (2nd ed). A novel defense of scientific realism. 346–364. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. underdetermination. is from the Realist’s point of view already bad enough. S. pp. The natural ontological attitude. (2002). (Eds. A. 79(1) 1–36. C. J. A. A. and a causal theory of evidence.C. (1998). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. (2006). Fine. J. we should do so placing the emphasis in the right place: the Realist’s problem is not that he can’t believe the claims of modern physics are true. On the explanatory role of correspondence truth. 383–398. I. Being unable to believe these.Synthese (2007) 159:1–21 21 failed: for him the argument was useless because he could not believe the premisses— the various object-language claims of physics. New York: Oxford University Press. .. of course it does follow that he can’t believe them true either. Fine. (1991). if we do. realism. 132–154. Scientific realism. Ladyman. The longer version of the present paper. Journal of Philosophy. van Fraassen. (1997)... Kaplan. (1995). and the quantum theory (2nd ed. pp. Musgrave. A. S. P. P. Philosophical Studies. 39. Kitcher. 7. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (1998). P. References Boyd. (1985). In The shaky game: Einstein.

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